Do you like

… the header image on the blog? It is a detail from a late seventeenth century map of Sussex by Robert Morden. Here is the whole image.

When setting up this blog I really wanted to use an image of Belloc and his wife, Elodie; although they never co-wrote any books, Elodie was as – if not more – important to Belloc as G. K. Chesterton.

Unfortunately, I was not able to format the one image I found of them together so had to look elsewhere. This lead me to Morden’s illustration. It appears on the Wikipedia page for Halnacker Hill (here). I chose it for two reasons. Firstly, because on Halnacker Hill is the windmill that inspired Belloc’s famous poem, Ha’nacker Mill, which you can see just to the left of Ertham in the centre of the map; and secondly, for Slindon, which is a little to Ertham’s right.

You can read Ha’nacker Mill on the Poetry by Heart website here.

Slindon is a significant place in Hilaire Belloc’s life. As Joseph Pearce notes in Old Thunder, the Belloc family moved there in 1878, just a few days before Hilaire’s eighth birthday. Elizabeth Belloc took her son for long walks in the Sussex countryside. The path to Rome and a great many other places undoubtedly began from their Slindon doorstep.

In 1903, Hilaire returned to Slindon for a summer holiday with Elodie and their children – Louis, Eleanor, Elizabeth, and Hilary (that summer, Elodie was pregnant with their fifth child, Peter). This holiday is notable for being the period that they met Reginald and Charlotte Balfour. Charlotte converted to the Catholic Faith the following year.

In 1904, Louis Belloc served Mass for the first time at Slindon’s Catholic church. Here’s how Eleanor remembered the occasion,

‘It gave my father such pleasure that Sunday,’ recalled Eleanor, ‘that he seemed overjoyed and, following Louis into the sacristy after Mass, brought him out into the church and gave him a golden sovereign…’” 

Joseph Pearce Old Thunder p.103

The Bellocs returned to Slindon during the Easter of 1905, this time to live there on a stopgap basis while they looked for a permanent residence. They would find it the following year at King’s Land, Shipley.

I have admired Hilaire Belloc’s faith and writing

… for over twenty years. To my shame, however, I have in that time only read a handful of his books. To be fair, I have for the last five or six years read The Path to Rome every year (during the period that Belloc undertook his famous pilgrimage) but given how much I like him, I could and should have read more.

Therefore, as I set out to read The Path to Rome again this year – June 2020, if you are reading this from 2021 onwards – I decided that enough was enough: it was time to start reading more of his books – not just every so often but regularly, perhaps as often as one book a month.

To prepare myself for this, I spent July 2020 reading Old Thunder, Joseph Pearce’s 2002 biography of Belloc. In August, I got going properly with the latter’s Europe and the Faith (1920).

It’s one thing to start reading, entirely another to keep at it. To motivate myself to do so, therefore, I started a Twitter account so that I could provide updates to anyone who might be interested regarding how I was getting on. That Twitter account is @SineAuctoritate.

I haven’t yet decided how I will use this blog. I hope that in time it will find its place. I don’t know how long I will keep it or the Twitter account going. I do know that I am burning to read more by Belloc so I hope both will be around for a while. I’m going to set myself a target, though: a minimum of one post a week between now and the end of August 2021. If I can make it to September next year, I’ll sit down with myself then and decide on the next move.

Back to the present, I would like to write posts about The Path to Rome, Old Thunder, and Europe and the Faith. I need to think about what shape they will take so I will go away and do that now. Thank you for reading. Please pray for me.